Homemade Tomato Relish

A classic recipe for generations of New Zealanders and Australians, my summer wouldn't be complete without Homemade Tomato Relish. Perfect for BBQs, sandwiches, cheeseboards and more, this delicious recipe is super simple.

As soon as the markets fill up with fresh, gloriously red tomatoes, I know the time has come to make one of my favourite summer recipes: Homemade Tomato Relish. Generations of New Zealanders and Australians have made this classic recipe, and for me, no summer is complete without it.

Perfect served alongside meats and burgers at a barbecue, this versatile condiment is always welcome on a cheeseboard, in a sandwich or served with cold meats. Jars of this delicious teat make perfect gifts to bring along to summer parties!

Tomato Relish on a cheeseboard with crackers, cheese, fresh tomatoes and wine.

Ingredients

To make this classic tomato relish recipe, you’ll need the following simple ingredients:

  • Tomatoes: Of course! Try to get nice, big, round, fresh tomatoes, as they are the easiest to peel. I always wait until I spot summer tomatoes on sale and then grab a couple of kilos so I can have plenty of relish in store for the whole summer. It always gets eaten up faster than I think it will! You can use cherry tomatoes if you chop them small (no need to peel).
  • Onions: You can use any colour onion you like, but I like the sweetness of red onions in this recipe.
  • Chilli: I like to add a couple of red or green chilli peppers and chilli flakes to my tomato relish. You can dial the heat up or down to suit your tastes.
  • Vinegar: I use white or brown malt vinegar in my relishes. White will give the brightest colour, but I prefer the flavour of a mild brown or red wine vinegar. Balsamic vinegar will overpower the tomatoes, and apple cider vinegar can be a little sweet.
  • Sugar: Brown sugar is often used in this relish, but I always use white sugar so that the red of the tomatoes is nice and bright.
  • Salt: It’s best practice for preserving to use non-iodised sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Mustard Seeds: Mustard seeds add a little heat and look beautiful in this relish. You can add flavourings to suit your tastes. Fennel seeds could be nice, or cumin, celery seed, or allspice. Experiment! The original recipe also includes curry powder, but these days, I tend to leave it out.
  • Flour: I have been making this recipe for many years, and it is always best to thicken it using plain or all-purpose flour. Cornflour or cornstarch can give the finished relish an unpleasant gummy mouthfeel.
Fresh summer tomatoes.
Peeled Tomatoes.

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Salted tomatoes and onions in a sieve.

Instructions

My tomato relish recipe is straightforward but requires a little time. Salting the vegetables draws out lots of liquid, which shortens the cooking time, keeping the flavours and colours brighter and more delicious.

  1. First, peel your tomatoes by cutting a cross in the bottom of each, plunging them into boiling water for one minute, and then refreshing them in cold water. The skin should come easily away from the tomato flesh. If not, dunk them back in the boiling water and repeat the process.
  2. Next, chop the tomatoes and combine them with the onions and salt in a large bowl (glass, ceramic, stainless steel or plastic). Cover and leave for 8-12 hours or overnight. This step draws out the excess liquid, which is crucial for the texture and taste of the relish.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, drain the tomato mixture through a sieve and discard the liquid (there will be a lot! Nearly two cups when I made this relish for photographing!). Then, transfer the tomato mixture to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, along with the chilli, sugar, vinegar, chilli flakes, and mustard seeds.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for around an hour until the mixture has thickened and is a deep, rich red. You’ll need to use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes from around half an hour in.
  5. While the tomato relish is cooking, sterilise your jars and lids (see recipe card for instructions).
  6. After an hour, stir together the flour and curry powder (if using) with 50ml of cold water, then pour into the simmering relish. Stir quickly to mix it well, then simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.
  7. Ladle the hot relish into the warm sterilised jars, seal them, and allow them to cool. The relish will keep for 2+ years in a cool, dark place.
Tomato relish in jars with jam funnel.
Uncooked Tomato Relish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to water bath can this relish?

I always get a lot of questions about this, but no, you do not need the water bath canning method for this relish. There is enough sugar, salt and vinegar to preserve it perfectly without additional help. If you feel happier using a water bath, around 15 minutes (adjust for altitude) will do.

Do I need to rinse the salt off the vegetables?

You do not need to rinse the salt as long as you drain the vegetables well. This is quite a sweet recipe, and the small amount of remaining salt balances the flavour. Be mindful of using level tablespoons, and if you are in Australia, remember that your tablespoon is 20ml, not 15ml like the rest of the world, so reduce the salt accordingly.

Tomato Relish in jars seen from above.
Tomato relish on cheese and crackers.
A jar of homemade tomato relish on a cheese board.

Classic Tomato Relish Recipe

A jar of homemade tomato relish on a cheese board.

Homemade Tomato Relish

Jay Wadams
A classic recipe made by generations of New Zealanders and Australians, my summer wouldn't be complete without Homemade Tomato Relish. Perfect for BBQs, sandwiches, cheeseboards and more, this delicious recipe is super simple.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Salting Time 6 hours
Serves 80 Tablespoons (1.25 litres)

Ingredients
 

  • 1.5 kg tomatoes, large
  • 2 large large red onions, diced
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 chilli pepper, diced
  • 400 g white sugar
  • 500 ml vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 Tbsp plain or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp curry powder, optional

Instructions
 

  • SKIN TOMATOES: Heat a large saucepan of water until boiling. Cut a cross into the base of each tomato, then drop them into the boiling water. Simmer for one minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and drop into a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin; it should peel away easily.
  • SALT VEGETABLES: Core and cut the tomatoes into eighths. Place the tomatoes and diced onion in a large non-reactive bowl (glass, ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel), sprinkle over the salt, stir to combine, cover with clingfilm, and leave for 12 hours or overnight.
  • COMBINE INGREDIENTS: The following day, drain the tomatoes well through a sieve, pressing down gently to extract the liquid. Do not rinse the tomatoes. Transfer the tomatoes and onions to a large saucepan, along with the chilli pepper, sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, and chilli flakes.
  • COOK RELISH: Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then simmer for one hour, stirring regularly and using a wooden spoon to gently break up the tomatoes. After around one hour, the mixture should be thickened and a rich, deep red.
  • STERILISE JARS: While the relish is cooking, heat the oven to 120°C / 250° F and wash your jars with hot, soapy water. Place the jars in an ovenproof dish and transfer to the oven for at least half an hour. Put the list in a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water.
  • THICKEN RELISH: After the relish has cooked for an hour, mix the flour and curry powder (if using) with 50ml of cold water until smooth. Pour the mixture into the relish, stirring immediately to mix it in well, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent the relish from catching.
  • JAR: Ladle the hot relish into the sterilised jars, ensuring there is no spillage on the rim (see notes), and seal tightly with the lids. Allow to cool, then label and store in a cool, dark place.

Notes

Australians! Your tablespoon is bigger than the rest of the world, so please only use 1 ½ tablespoons of salt and flour!
Recipe Yield is approximately 1.25 litres depending on how juicy your tomatoes are.
This recipe traditionally includes curry powder, but in recent years, I have preferred to leave it out. You can mix and match spices to suit your tastes, giving you the freedom to create a relish that is uniquely yours. I like a little allspice and extra chilli flakes, but you can experiment how you like!
If you make jams, jellies, chutneys or relishes, do yourself a favour and buy a jam funnel like the one below. They make filling jars cleanly and quickly a breeze.

Recommended Equipment

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Nutrition

Serving: 1Tbsp | Calories: 27kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Sodium: 179mg | Potassium: 53mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Preserves
Cuisine | New Zealand
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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